Public Hearing

before

ASSEMBLY AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES

COMMITTEE

ASSEMBLY CONCURRENT RESOLUTION No. 169

(Amends Constitution to increase bonding cap for
Garden State Preservation Trust from $1 billion to $1.15 billion)

LOCATION:

Committee Room 8
State House Annex
Trenton, New Jersey

DATE:

June 5, 2003
2:00 p.m.

 

MEMBERS OF COMMITTEE PRESENT:

Assemblyman Robert J. Smith II, Chairman

Assemblyman Douglas H. Fisher, Vice-Chairman

Assemblyman Herb Conaway

Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer

Assemblyman Michael J. Doherty

 

 

ALSO PRESENT:    
     

Jeffrey T. Climpson   

Maggie Manza Jennifer J. Rasch
Office of Legislative Services Assembly Majority Assembly Republican
Committee Aide  Committee Aide Committee Aide


                                                     

Meeting Recorded and Transcribed by
T
he Office of Legislative Services, Public Information Office,
Hearing Unit, State House Annex, PO 068, Trenton, New Jersey

 

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Good afternoon. Iím Doug Fisher,

Assembly Vice-Chair of the Committee.

Chairman Smith will be here momentarily. He asked if we would

start the meeting in his absence. He will be back shortly.

We have three matters of business today. One, we have a public

hearing on ACR-169. We also have two bills to be considered: Assembly Bill

2826 and Assembly Bill 3339.

We will be starting with the public hearing, and we have several

people that wish to speak to this issue. With that-- And this meeting will be

recorded.

Weíll first take the roll call.

MR. CLIMPSON (Committee Aide): Chairman Smith, as

mentioned, will be here shortly.

Vice-Chairman Fisher.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Here.

MR. CLIMPSON: Assemblyman Dancer.

ASSEMBLYMAN DANCER: Here.

MR. CLIMPSON: Assemblyman Doherty.

ASSEMBLYMAN DOHERTY: Here.

MR. CLIMPSON: Assemblyman Conaway.

ASSEMBLYMAN CONAWAY: Here.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Thank you.

First, will be David Pringle, from the New Jersey Environmental

Fund.

Okay, he wonít be first.

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Jeff Tittel.

J E F F T I T T E L: Which bill?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER FROM AUDIENCE: I think itís

ACR-169.

MR. TITTEL: Oh, okay. Iím sorry, I didnít know which bill.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Before Iím going to ask you to testify,

Iím going to ask the clerk to read the bill.

MR. TITTEL: Sure.

MR. CLIMPSON: This is the public hearing on Assembly

Concurrent Resolution 169, the Constitutional Amendment to increase the

bonding cap for the Garden State Preservation Trust from $1 billion to $1.15

billion.

MR. TITTEL: Thank you.

Iím here testifying on behalf of the New Jersey Sierra Club, that

strongly supports this legislation. Quite frankly, basically, I can sum it up, very

simply saying, "We need the money." When the trust was first put forward, a

billion dollars seemed like a lot of money. Itís not as much, considering the

need that is out there in the State of New Jersey to buy open space, and to fix

parks, and to preserve areas in the Highlands. And this goes a long way to help

continue to do that.

The other part of this legislation that we think is important is that

it doesnít cost the taxpayers any more money. Itís because interest rates are

lower now than they were when this bill was first passed. That allows us to,

actually, raise the debt ceiling and to bond more, and still keep it under the $98

million thatís been dedicated for interest.

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So it makes sense. This is, basically -- and I hate to use that term

free money, because thereís no, really, such thing -- but since the Legislature and

the voters in New Jersey voted to put $98 million a year towards open space, we

can now expend another $150 million, without costing the taxpayers any more

money, and be able to buy at least 20,000 acres more of open space. And I

think itís critical, as well as being able to fix parks and urban areas. And that

will help protect our reservoirs up in the Highlands, as well as help stop sprawl

in New Jersey.

Thank you.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Thank you very much.

Christina Meo.

C H R I S T I N A M E O: Meo. (indicating pronunciation)

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Meo. Mary (sic) Becker Associates for

the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

MS. MEO: The Conservation Foundation would just like to be on

record as supporting this bill.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Thank you.

ASSEMBLYMAN CONAWAY: Thatís my kind of testimony.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: A little long-winded, but-- (laughter)

Tom Gilbert.

T H O M A S A. G I L B E R T: Thank you.

My name is Tom Gilbert. Iím the Executive Director of The

Highlands Coalition. And on behalf of the more than 100 members of The

Highlands Coalition, Iíd like to express our strong support for ACR-169.

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Since weíve already testified in support of both ACR-169 and A-

3515 before this Committee, I will keep my remarks brief and provide copies of

my original testimony. We believe this bill makes sense for both environmental

and economic reasons. Current funding for open space and farmland

preservation, in the Highlands and elsewhere, is insufficient. And this bill would

help to close that gap and leverage additional Federal matching funds through

the Highlands Stewardship Act.

Investing in community parks will, also, help to advance Smart

Growth, by making existing communities more livable and reducing

development pressure in areas targeted for preservation, such as the Highlands.

Finally, this bill is a good deal for taxpayers. By frontloading the

process, the State, local governments, and non-profits can acquire land and

develop parks at todayís lower price, and at no additional cost to the taxpayers.

So, for these reasons, we urge the passage of ACR-169 as soon as possible, so

that the issue can go before the voters this fall.

Thank you.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Thank you, Tom.

I know Iím going to mess your last name, Richard -- Nieuwenhuis.

R I C H A R D E. N I E U W E N H U I S: Nieuwenhuis. (indicating

pronunciation)

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Nieuwenhuis, New Jersey Farm

Bureau.

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: Itís so much easier than itís spelled.

Thatís what happens when your father says heís going to leave his country, but

not his name. (laughter)

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Thank you very much.

Iím just going to make this real brief. Obviously, anything that has

to do with farmland preservation money, and the increase thereof, New Jersey

Farm Bureau is very, very much in favor of. We would have liked to have seen

this split a little bit different, but weíll take it. And we hope that this goes

forward in the fall, when it gets on the ballot.

Thank you very much.

ASSEMBLYMAN DOHERTY: Mr. Chairman, could I--

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Yes.

ASSEMBLYMAN DOHERTY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Nieuwenhuis, thereís been some discussion about the ratio

changing. Could you give us an explanation of how you read that?

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: The ratio changing, as far as this bill?

ASSEMBLYMAN DOHERTY: Percentage going to farmland versus

Green Acres, open space, preservation, park -- is that-- In your understanding,

is this going to change the percentage of money -- the allocation going to

farmland preservation in the State of New Jersey?

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: It is not going to change the allocation of

the 60-40 on the original farmland preservation legislation. The way we are --

understand this whole thing is that, this is new money, and that farmland

preservation will be getting 20 percent of that new money.

Now, it will not-- Thereís another bill out there, 3514, thatís

floating around, that would, in fact, change the funding numbers -- percentage --

of farmland preservation versus Green Acres, open space funding, historic

preservation. That we are violently opposed to. Violently -- Iím not sure thatís

6

the right word, but totally opposed to. But this bill we are not opposed to,

because it does increase the amount of money towards farmland preservation.

But 3514 we are definitely opposed to.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Assemblyman.

ASSEMBLYMAN DOHERTY: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

And what are you hearing, as far as these competing bills? Youíre

opposed to the one thatís going to change the ratio for the old money, right?

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: Right.

ASSEMBLYMAN DOHERTY: Is there any support for that, as far

as you can tell?

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: I believe that there are some Assembly

people out there that are supporting that, but our main agricultural areas -- we

have been able to ascertain that. The Assemblymen and women, from that --

those main agriculture areas -- are very much in support of leaving the funding

as it is.

ASSEMBLYMAN DOHERTY: Thank you.

ASSEMBLYMAN FISHER: Assemblyman Dancer.

ASSEMBLYMAN DANCER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Nieuwenhuis, I just want to follow up on Mikeís comments

here.

My understanding is that by virtue of the refinancing, we go from

the 200 million to the 350 million level. So that 150 million annually is

incremental, new money.

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: Yes.

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ASSEMBLYMAN DANCER: Okay. Iíve heard you mention a

percentage of 20 percent for farmland. I wasnít aware -- or correct me if Iím

wrong -- that in the bill, it is not specified as to the percentage allocation

between farmland preservation and open space or park acquisition and

development. Is it 80-20 on the new money -- on the 150?

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: The way our understanding is, on this bill

is, that the 80 percent will go towards -- that is earmarked for parks and

recreation-type acquisition and/or rehabilitation. And 20 percent is earmarked

for farmland preservation.

ASSEMBLYMAN DANCER: Okay. So it is 80-20 on the 150.

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: Yes.

ASSEMBLYMAN DANCER: The 60-40 remains--

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: Remains, exactly.

ASSEMBLYMAN DANCER: --on the original.

MR. NIEUWENHUIS: Yes, there was quite a bit of discussion

about that, originally. But the original amount that was legislated in í98 -- is

that correct -- I believe -- on that, that remains 60-40.

ASSEMBLYMAN DANCER: Okay, thank you.

ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERT J. SMITH II (Chairman): David

Pringle. Is David here? (no response)

David is in favor of the resolution.

John Watson.

J O H N S. W A T S O N JR.: Mr. Chairman, Iím just here to answer

questions, if there are any.

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ASSEMBLYMAN SMITH: Any questions for Mr. Watson? (no

response)

And we have Rich -- Rich already spoke.

Is there anybody else that cares to testify? (no response)

Any questions or discussion among Committee members? (no

response)

Okay. I think weíll close the hearing at this point.

Thank you.

(HEARING CONCLUDED)